Why Do Facebook Litigant Paul Ceglia’s Lawyers Keep Dropping Out?

Paul Ceglia, the embattled Facebook, Inc. litigant claiming a 50% ownership stake in the social media company, is likely to lose yet another lawyer to represent him in his two-year-old lawsuit.

Early this year, Facebook’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s lead attorney Orin Snyder described Ceglia’s “revolving door of lawyers [as]…additional evidence that this abusive lawsuit is a hoax and a fraud.”

Now, less than a week after federal fraud charges were filed against Ceglia, Ohio lawyer Dean Boland became the latest lawyer ask for permission to stop representing Ceglia. Boland stated that there is no connection between his motion to withdraw, and Ceglia’s latest felony charges.

An unusual number of lawyers have signed on, and then withdrawn from the case during the last two years. If Boland withdraws, that will only leave Buffalo lawyer Paul Argentieri to represent Ceglia. Argientieri was Ceglia’s first lawyer, and he has remained on the case since filing his client’s original complaint in New York State Court on June 30, 2012.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal charges against Ceglia, accusing him of engaging in mail and wire fraud to purportedly carry out a multi-billion dollar scheme by allegedly using a fraudulent contract, fake emails, and backdating to try and defraud Zuckerberg and Facebook. (view the criminal charges below). Ceglia was previously convicted of felony criminal charges in 1997 for a different matter.

Curiously, the new criminal charges share a common theme with Zuckerberg and Facebook’s key defense theory in the civil case: that Ceglia’s purported work for hire document he claims to have made with Zuckerberg is fraudulent. Several weeks before felony charges were filed against Ceglia last month, the defense team’s lawyers emphasized this point:

[S]ince day one, Defendants have consistently maintained that Ceglia’s Work for Hire document is [a] forgery; that Ceglia proffered multiple versions of that forged document during this litigation; and that this entire lawsuit is a fraud and a lie.

In March 2012, a member of the P.R. firm hired by national litigation firm Milberg, LLP told this blogger that “some of the expert declarations favorable to Ceglia…helped persuade Milberg to represent him.” Just three months later, however, the firm sought and was granted permission to stop representing him.

In the fall of 2011, San Diego, California lawyer Jeffrey A. Lake stopped representing Ceglia. He had joined Ceglia’s team in late June 2011. Lake joined after litigators at DLA Piper and the Buffalo firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman withdrew from the case. The Lippes legal team included former New York State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco.

DLA Piper previously began representing Ceglia in April 2011 when lawyers at the Buffalo, New York, firm of Connors & Vilardo withdrew from the case after less than a year, having signed on to represent Ceglia in the summer of 2010, according to the case docket.

The semblance of a revolving door of lawyers does not bode well for Ceglia. Many noteworthy law firms and lawyers signed on to represent him, only to subsequently depart for unclear reasons. Lawyers for Zuckerberg and Facebook have consistently argued that their central defense in the civil case is that Ceglia’s purported claims are based on a fraudulent work for hire document that both parties forensic examiners have investigated.

Read one of Ceglia’s lawyer’s motion to withdraw, and the new federal felony criminal charges that the plaintiff is facing below:

Notice of Motion to Withdraw as Attorney (Ceglia v. Zuckerberg)

Formerly Sealed Complaint (U.S. v. Ceglia)

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Image credit: Amy Johansson via Shutterstock